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Sports Health. 2011 Jul;3(4):362-72.

A treatment-based classification approach to examination and intervention of lumbar disorders.

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Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.



Low back injuries are a common occurrence in athletes and often result in missed competition and practice time. The examination of athletes with low back pain commonly involves diagnostic imaging, which rarely guides the clinician in selecting the appropriate interventions.


All years of PubMed, CINAHL, PEDro, and SPORTDiscus were searched in December 2010. Keywords included treatment based classification and lumbar with the following terms: rehabilitation, treatment, athlete, low back pain, sports, and outcomes.


A treatment-based classification approach is preferred for the management of the athlete with low back pain. The treatment-based classification approach involves 3 steps. First is to screen the patient for potentially serious conditions that are not appropriate for conservative management. Second is staging the athlete (based on current disability ratings and ability to perform functional activities). Finally, treatment interventions are selected on the basis of the athlete's signs and symptoms.


The treatment-based classification scheme provides the clinician with a reliable algorithm for matching an athlete's symptom presentation to the optimal intervention, potentially reducing participation loss. Managing individuals with low back pain using a treatment-based classification approach significantly reduces disability and pain compared with current clinical practice guideline standards.


low back pain; lumbar; sports; treatment-based classification

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